gentle ways

IMG_2243POSTCARD 144: Bangkok: Impossible to write about Thailand without reference to the car bomb last night in downtown Bangkok, the Thai word for it is ‘baa’ (insanity), was it a madman or was it a politically motivated act intended to provoke retaliation? There’ll be a long investigation and what it means is ordinary people will endure the traffic jams as roads are blocked off; life will go on as usual. Extremists give Thailand a bad reputation; it’s a story we know all too well these days – a created enemy.

I wasn’t able to discuss it with M my Thai niece in Chiang Mai, who’s thinking of things much more important than crazy people with bombs and anyway I’d left for Bangkok the day before, and had no idea there was a bomb because my place there is nowhere near the disaster area and I don’t watch TV. M told me when I called her about the pictures of the chocolate tart she sent me that we made when I was in Chiang Mai. She got the recipe from a YouTube video; created from a packet of Oreo cookies and 2 bars of good quality dark chocolate and one bar of milk chocolate. Open up the cookies and discard the pasty yucky bit in the middle. Smash the Oreo itself to a fine powder and mix with butter to make the base. Then break up the chocolate and melt in milk in a bowl inside a larger bowl of hot water. Pour on top of the Oreo base and put in the freezer overnight.

It’s a kinda reconstituted thing, I thought, yeh nice! Fun thing to do with M and she liked the idea that we are engaged in this activity together, impressed that I was able to scrunch up the Oreo with a spoon really well because of large strong fingers. I was rushing to get it finished though and M was holding things up with her attention to detail, The sequence is important, you have to do properly Toong-Ting, its work like that, she says. I correct her because, well, it’s natural to do that: ‘it works like that,’ I say. She looks at me, then goes back to her scrunching of Oreo: Why he, she and it have ‘s’, and the others don’t? And I say it’s because it’s Third Person Singular, you know? (knowing I’ll have to think up an explanation fast).  But… Why? So I decide to try this: it’s just the way words relate to each other, the way things fit together, and the he-she-it one is different from the others. Just different, that’s all. M accepts this explanation and I’m relieved. We go on scrunching…

The Thai culture values peaceful, gentle ways. The Buddhist teachings guide people through the delusion arising from hot emotions like confusion, anger; the mindfulness of knowing that whatever arises, falls away. Thais have this deeply felt jai-yen (keep a cool heart) attitude that’ll hopefully allow things to remain calm in the years to come. Everyone is quite well aware of the danger. It’ll take more than a single bomb at Erawan Shrine to cause a reaction.
(Note: At the time of writing a second bomb has exploded in the river at Sathorn Bridge)

“Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” [Helen Keller]


Note about Helen Keller: Helen was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. [The] big breakthrough in communication came when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”.
Photo: Flower seller Phuket

12 thoughts on “gentle ways

    • Yes, there’s a lot of it about – insane goings-on in general. Whereas individuals who live in reality don’t feel inclined to create more urgency than we already have. Things are exciting enough as they are…

  1. On a bus today I heard a schoolboy – probably close to M‘s age – trying to tell a Thai woman about the blast. The woman seemed convinced he’d got it wrong, either that it happened in the South or in another country entirely. I had to fight the impulse to support his account. If she doesn’t want to believe she may have her reasons. She’ll find out soon enough.

    • Hmmm, thanks for this comment. It does raise the issue of how most people don’t want to believe that anything ‘bad’ has happened – a kind of ‘unbelievable’ thing. A natural reaction… gives those who have credibility the advantage if it’s they, or Right Wing Extremists (acting on their behalf), who carried out the pearl-harbour strategy in order to create fear and reinforce security, etc., hard to see the wood from the trees, same old story…

  2. My heart with you and your family, as well as all the Thai people, during this difficult time. It is so hard to believe that someone would desecrate such a sacred space with such suffering. _/|\_

    • Thanks for these kind words. We always forget, don’t we, that the vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives. They are the ones who suffer. This is a political, of course, anyone who leaves a bomb a public place knows they will get the attention of the world within minutes…

    • Thanks Kimberly. yes M was great! She’s quite grown up now, facing the world. And this is it, maybe sounds overly dramatic to some, but there an element of danger all around us all the time that we’ve learned to live with – it’s called mindfulness.

  3. Hi
    Nice Keller quote.
    Yes, life is uncertain, or another way of looking at it, ripe with possibility. Possibility of all kind.
    For what its worth, a couple of years back I was diagnosed with cancer. I would be asked by concerned friends how I felt. I used to say (and still do), nothing has really changed. Before cancer, life is uncertain/ripe with possibility, diagnosed with cancer life is uncertain/ripe with possibility. Healed, life is uncertain/ripe with possibility.
    But kindness encompasses all.
    Warm wishes, J

    • Thanks J. It’s worth looking into the Helen Keller story just to experience the reality of all her joys and sorrows. Anyone who’s had to face suffering understands this. I’m also a cancer survivor and that’s where I learned about living with uncertainty. It’s the truth for everyone, the actuality about life, but many of us are lulled into a routine of work, family and television and unable to see beyond that. Stuck in an imagined reality…

  4. I am so sad to hear about the bomb blast in Thailand, may who died rest in peace and who are injured get well soon. For those who lost their loved ones it is painful to bear.. these must be caused by politicians to get attractions, I am glad you and your Thai Niece are in different place. Life is uncertain. So we should not waste single moment. In today’s world there is danger everywhere. Like Hellen Keller has said life is either a daring adventure or nothing. People realize the value of life either they experience near death experience or they suffer from dangerous disease which is difficult to cure. Nice post brother. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Thank you for these kind words. I’m thinking about what you say: ‘In today’s world there is danger everywhere.’ And yet we live in a democracy, not a war zone – there is no visible enemy. What we learned from 911 is that it’s not possible to identify the real perpetrators. This action has created doubt all over the world. Somehow we have to live with this, the Helen Keller quote tells us: ‘Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.’ We try to imagine her courageous reaching out in the darkness. For the rest of us it’s more like mindfulness, a kind of innate alertness. Living in the present moment, the danger is in the illusion…

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